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Jeffrey Eugenides, Judy Blume, Jennifer Egan Wrap Up Booktalk Nation Preview

Booktalk Nation concludes its preview this week with Jeffrey Eugenides discussing The Marriage Plot with host Jennifer Egan tonight, Judy Blume discussing Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing and other books with host Rachel Vail tomorrow night, and Peter Orner discussing Love and Shame and Love (great review in yesterday’s NYT) with host Michelle Richmond on Wednesday.

Booktalk Nation formally launches in January, when we’ll invite bookstores around the country to organize their own book talks with authors.

Booktalk Nation coordinates national, phone-in book talks, in which an author talks about a new book for 30 minutes with another author, who “hosts” the talk — as the host of a radio program would — and may (optionally) take questions from callers. Each event has a traditional bookstore sponsor that’s convenient to the author. (Labyrinth Books of Princeton is sponsoring Jeff Eugenides’s talk; Bank Street Bookstore of Manhattan is sponsoring Judy Blume’s talk; Books Inc. of San Francisco is sponsoring Peter Orner’s talk.)

Traditional bookstores benefit in two ways:

1. The sponsor bookstore has the opportunity to sell books nationwide. Through the Booktalk Nation website, readers can order books to be personally inscribed by the author. The order goes to the sponsoring bookstore. A day or so after the talk, the author visits the sponsoring store and inscribes the books. The store then fulfills orders nationwide. (Last year, our very quiet test of the service with a few events led to sales in more than 15 states.)

2. Other brick-and-mortar bookstores can act as affiliates on the sales, roughly splitting the net proceeds if they refer their customers who order books through the system. For example, each of these sponsor bookstores in this week’s events is acting as an affiliate for the other stores’ events. (The Flying Pig Bookstore in Shelburne, VT, which acted as sponsor for our inaugural event with children’s book author Katherine Paterson, is also acting as affiliate for these events.) An affiliate merely promotes the events through its e-mail and website.

Our aim is to have a service that will allow traditional bookstores to support each other and sell books where they never would otherwise — outside their immediate areas. It will also, of course, benefit the authors who participate in it. We see this as a supplement to, not a substitute for, a traditional book tour.